Cocaine causes a myriad of health issues for users in both the short and long term and is particularly detrimental to sexual health. Studies have revealed many adverse effects on both male and female sexual health from cocaine use, which can last well beyond the period of use. For men, cocaine can lead to a number of lifelong problems related to sexual health. Here are five of the ways cocaine puts men’s sexual health at risk:
- Engaging in risky sexual behaviors
Perhaps the most obvious effect is that cocaine lowers inhibitions and works as an aphrodisiac for many users, increasing the desire for sex and making it feel more enjoyable. However, this same lowering of inhibitions can be dangerous, as it often causes users to engage in riskier sexual behaviors, such as unprotected sex. This leads to the transmission of diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Intravenous cocaine users are also at higher risk for sexually transmitted infections from dirty or shared needles, which they are more likely to use due to lowered inhibitions and impaired judgment. Cocaine also impairs immune cell functions, making users even more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases.
- Erectile dysfunction
Because cocaine restricts blood flow, it can cause the penis to shrink and have difficulties achieving and maintaining an erection. This is especially uncomfortable when considering the increased desire to have sex often associated with cocaine use. Chronic cocaine use can lead to priapism, characterized by a painful, persistent erection requiring medical attention. Untreated priapism can damage the penis, or even lead to amputation. Priapism treatment itself is unpleasant, involving the use of a needle to drain blood from the penis.
- Long-term effects
Although in early use cocaine can increase sexual desire, long-term use eventually leads to lower libido and erectile dysfunction, even after discontinuing drug use. It is important to note that stopping cocaine use will not necessarily reverse these effects.
- Decreased fertility
Cocaine use is proven to cause fertility problems in both males and females. For men, it decreases sperm count and slows sperm mobility, and even lowers ejaculatory volume by over 50%.
- Potentially dangerous during conception
Although studies have not yet proven this in humans, in mice, male sperm was able to carry cocaine into eggs during fertilization. Human babies born to mothers who used cocaine during pregnancy often suffer neurological and developmental abnormalities, and it is possible that male cocaine use during conception can also be dangerous for the fetus.